Tie. HALLOWEEN (2018) and SUSPIRIA (2018) have both seen regular rotation in my playlist since their respective releases, and for different reasons. The former because it’s a perfectly re-imagined take on the original iconic theme (done by THE master maestro himself, John Carpenter), and the ladder because it attempts something so completely different from its inspired source original and does so with aplomb, this no more evident than the film’s crimson filled finale. Thom Yorke definitely took some chances, and I think they mostly paid off.
There’s been quite the deluge of remasters this year (Suspiria being my favorite one, easy) and with them, a slew of incredible Blu-Ray packaging, goodies, and companion material. This isn’t an easy category to pick a favorite in, but there is one particular release that went far enough above and beyond to give it the edge; Scott Schirmer’s THE BAD MAN’. As for what’s included in addition to the two disc special feature filled discs, you have signed artwork and photos, a bumper sticker, an iron-on badge, two sexual preferences questionnaire filled with hilarious categories, and finally—an official THE BAD MAN condom. Yes, an actual (hopefully) working, condom—how can I not recognize a Blu-Ray release for encouraging the practice of safe sex? Talented and responsible this team is, bravo.
This was easy. As a massive fan of 80’s horror schlock from that decade, the SLAUGHTER SINEMA house took the cake for me. Filled to the brim, and covered from wall-to-wall with every kind of knock-off reference to all the gooey gross and corny B-films of the era, it was like navigating through the deepest dimly-lit corridors of my own cinema-heart. Highlight of the walk-through was the section which seemed to be a facsimile of the Critters movie ship, along with the furry fuzzballs themselves (or knock-offs of them anyway). Also, a genuine heart-felt sorry to the cannibal I wacked with my hand after an unfortunately timed jump scare.
Dance with the Dead’s B-Sides. Not just because the concert itself was an incredibly awesome time, but because the melding together of electronic pop with 80’s synth and Carpenter influenced horror beats make this limited release a song that plays to my heart and soul. Doesn’t hurt that the vinyl itself looks absolutely bad ass in every way possible.
Volume 1 of the album is available to listen to at the official bandcamp page:
If Black Mirror counts, then I’m going with Black Mirror. Otherwise, I hang my head in shame when I say I really haven’t watched much in the way of television series that sit firmly in the horror genre. I’ve watched The Office for what feels like the thousandth time; it’s become an inescapable routine that’s beginning to feel like a personal Netflix created hell. There’s your horror.
Honorable mention to the Blair Bathory hosted Fear Haus. A well produced sort of Tales from the Crypt / Elvira Show mashup with a strict focus on independently made short horror films. A show after our own heart!
Maaaaan this one is super tough. All three films I have in my mind are actually short independent releases: BFF GIRLS, GACHA GACHA, and FREELANCER, and all three really brought the chuckles, for different reasons too. But gun to the head, if I absolutely had to choose (and I do), I think Freelancer elicited the heartiest laughs from me. I’m sick in the head; I know this, and the short’s premise played the closest to my own sensibilities. The highlight being the disgusting “love” story of a man and a sperm whale being told at a wedding party, which culminates in the most ridiculous (and probably most gag-inducing) visual punchline in recent memory. Honorable mention to MOM AND DAD.
Without giving anything away, there’s a rather disturbing (and creative) death scene in the 2018 re-imagining of SUSPIRIA that’s sure to leave your insides feeling twisted up in knots. You’ll know it the very moment it occurs. Runner-up would definitely be THE kill in TERRIFIER. If you’ve seen any of the film’s poster art, then you know the one. Otherwise I’m not sure anything else this year even comes close (although Hereditary features a couple hard hitting ones sure to catch its viewers by surprise).
THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT takes the cake here, and not because it’s poorly done; “worst kill” means something different here. In the film’s fourth incident (incidents are somewhat representative of Jack’s milestones as a serial killer), there is a very disturbing sequence of events which lead to the murders of multiple people. Given the circumstances of the scene, and given the type of victims involved, this was the cruelest the film ever gets (though you could argue for the fifth incident, easy). Unless of course violence against animals is your trigger, then you’ll likely want to turn your head during an early flashback scene. And even still, incident four has an aftermath that’ll surely press your button rapidly.
MANDY. It is sooooo Mandy. Don’t get me wrong, Summer of ‘84 was nostalgic fun, Terrified was spooky, Revenge was bat shit crazy, but Mandy sits on an entirely different, entirely drug-fueled heavy metal-laden emotional level. The bathroom scene alone *bites fist*
In my attempt to de-clutter I’ve cooled it quite a bit in the buying merch department. But that doesn’t mean I’m not looking at what’s being peddled and bought in the community. So, as for what’s been tempting me the most, I’d have to go with the incredible bits of horror-themed apparel at FRIGHT RAGS, and the mind-bendingly awesome Vinyls released by WAXWORK RECORDS (my personal favorite). In fact, those are pretty much the only two merchants I’ve picked stuff up from this year (not counting film releases).
Tie between CREEPSHOW and SUSPIRIA (1977). Both remastered and both looking nothing like any of the releases that came before them, and for the better. The former, a film rife with practical effects, now comes alive, allowing for Savini's work to truly be appreciated more than ever. The ladder, an eye-searing spectacle-of-an-event, that--thanks to the better rendering of colors--becomes even more evocative and more effective at delivering Argento's vision. Without completely dipping into a full-fat 4K release (or watching at an Alamo Drafthouse theater), this is without a doubt the best these two films will ever look.
SUSPIRIA (2018). Its highs were unmatched, but its lows were such that the entire film was dragged way down in the end. I still liked it, a lot in fact, but my expectations were through-the-roof with this one. Read my full impressions here: https://www.ttf13.com/reviews/2018/11/7/review-suspiria-2018
Hereditary is my favorite mainstream horror film of 2018, without a doubt, and with all the runner-ups being spread across different production companies anyway, I’ll just give it to the one that made this film. So A24 it is.
While not possessing the best films in the genre, I want to say that Netflix has been the most consistent with its horror distribution (while offering a couple stand outs as well). The Apostle was alright, Cam was interesting, Bird Box was a massive hit, Hold the Dark was tense, and Annihilation stands as one of the year’s best. Otherwise, Dread Central Presents comes pretty close with Terrifier, Extremity, Imitation Girl, and Director’s Cut, but their recent pickups have been shaky at best. Hopefully a return to form in 2019.
Another incredibly hard category to pick a favorite in. If anything, ground-level low budget independent films were at their best in the short films department. Right off the top of my head, we had gems like HAIR WOLF, FREELANCER, GACHA GACHA, GOOD GIRL, LOVESICK, PARLOUR TRICKS, LUNCH LADIES, not to mention the barrage of shorts from fledgling filmmaker Andrew J.D. Robinson. Needless to say, it was a stacked year, but ultimately my choice came down to repetition. How many times I hit that rewind button and watched it all over again—typically a good sign of my adoration for a film. And this year, that honor goes to Brian Lonano’s BFF GIRLS; a wacky, pervy, colorful tongue-in-cheek live action anime about friendship, team work, and menstruation.
Growing up, I was raised in the Christian faith. Angels and demons were as real to me as a kid, as debt and ulcers are to me as an adult. If there was a heaven, there was most assuredly a hell; a God, and a Devil. As such, no other sub-genre in horror scared me more than those which tackled the supernatural, and that fear carries over today, into adulthood. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Ari Aster’s HEREDITARY is the scariest film I have ever seen (though my traumatizing experience with Candyman back in the 90’s comes close), and every bit of the over-the-top finale that many many people derided the film for, absolutely landed like a bomb for me. I left the theater, literally shaking, swearing to never watch it again. And a few weeks later, I made that promise to myself once more—ha!
Also, I’d like to recognize what I feel, is the best low budget feature I’ve seen this year. Damien Leone’s TERRIFIER. Here’s a grimy cinematic nugget of indulgence—namely violence and unbridled cruelty—that calls back to the new wave of French extreme horror back in the early 2000’s. It’s also given rise to the best new horror villain since forever (though it’s become a massive shame that Cat Sick Blues’ Catman hasn’t hit superstardom yet). Hopefully we get to see David Howard Thornton reprise the role sooner rather than later.
Slim pickings here, but enough to make a category for. Two standouts for me that definitely deserve recognition, and it’s honestly not even close; Gacha Gacha’s LUSH the tur….uh….tortoise, and Bff Girl’s NEKO SENSEI, the cat. Both animals (well, one animal and one animal-sensei-man) provide the laughs for their respective short films either through subtle situational comedy (in the case of Lush), or by being outrageously crass (Neko Sensei). And both very nearly steal the show as a result.
Another tie. And funny enough, both have roots in science fiction, and feature themes of female empowerment and cosmic horror. Alex Garland’s ANNIHILATION, and Natasha Kermani’s IMITATION GIRL. Two totally bizarre flicks that straddle genres well, strike at your emotions, and end with complete and utter mind-benders. Both are readily available on VOD services, so give them a shot if you’re looking for something a little (a lot) different.
A strong runner up is Scott Schirmer’s THE BAD MAN.
Same as it was for my favorite feature, the two categories go hand-in-hand for me; it’s Hereditary.
Just thinking back to the film’s climax, as I type this, is bringing on a major onset of goosebumps. And while the film has no shortage of terrifying moments, there are a handful of standouts whose images I’ll likely never be able to erase from memory. We so often talk about how horror films aren’t really scary anymore, so the freeze of my blood, chills down my spine, and sleepless nights which followed, will forever remain a treasured gift. Thanks for the nightmares and the trauma, Hereditary.
Had TRAUMA not been released this year, Takashi Hirose’s Brutal, or Stephen Biro’s The Song of Solomon would have taken this one. But it was, so they won’t. You can read our review here to get an idea on the team’s feelings regarding Trauma, but to summarize, this is easily the most putrid, hateful, cruelest film pressed to disc in recent and not-so-recent memory. Just talking about what Trauma entails would make this article NSFW, and quite honesty, I’d rather not even revisit it mentally. I suppose if you’re looking for something to test your mental endurance (and stomach), here is the horror equivalent of the bar exam.
And if that’s not enough, check out Heidi Moore’s excellent documentary MORE BLOOD! for some wonderful recommendations to torture yourself with.
The 15 Second Horror Film Challenge; holy smokes, what an experience that was. Finally getting a chance to stand with my creative peers and contribute something to the community, and be recognized for it, really gave me a deeper appreciation for the craft involved with film-making. Shit’s tough, but I think we did alright given this was our first real outing (placing in 35th place out of 97) — plus it offered a nice opportunity to bond with my niece. Can’t wait to do it again this new year!
And speaking of first outings, the rather extensive interview we conducted with the cast and crew of Gacha Gacha, was something special indeed. The task of translating from Japanese to English for a couple of the discussions meant it was easily the most complex endeavor attempted by us, for that format, to date. Thank heavens for Jasmine Martinez and Christopher Pena, there was no way in hell we’d have been able to press forward with it in any decipherable manner, without their help.
Also, not to leave them out of the topic of interviews, but the one conducted with the NEFARIOUS production crew, which book-ended the year, stands as my personal favorite on the site. It was incredibly refreshing to veer outside the usual talking points and into some uncomfortable territory. The folks who participated handled it like champs, and we came away with a better—more honest— piece for it. Hopefully 2019 sees future interviewees willing to tackle tough subject matter in the same way.
Also, I’d be remiss not to mention my meetup with Cassandra Sechler and Craig Jacobson at the Sick-and-Wrong Film Festival. I had an absolute blast talking movies and life and typical starving artist shit. They were incredibly kind to me (and my sister), and even offered some very encouraging words regarding the work we do at Thirteenth Floor. That kind of motivation is priceless, and I’ll forever be grateful for it. Same for the collaboration on the DIY series DDCP is producing. Especially at the ground level, it’s important to stretch your dollars as far as possible, and these tutorials do a great job at helping you to create convincing props for very little moolah.
So we had planned to do a complete redesign of the website, giving it a sort of 1950’s EC comics style aesthetic. Creepshow is one of my favorite horror movies ever, and I wanted nothing more than to pay tribute to its borrowed style by making each new review we did into something that resembled an issue of Tales from the Crypt, or Vault of Horror. Unfortunately we have yet to hear back from certain copyright and IP owners, and we definitely didn’t want to move forward without getting E.C.’s blessing, but it just hasn’t happened yet. We still want to do it though, and if it means taking creative liberties to avoid having our asses sued, then so be it. In the meantime, here is a very early, very rough concept template for what a review would have looked like. Obviously the avatars would be our own, and not that of the famous E.C. comics horror hosts: